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How the youth are solving the Cyprus problem for themselves

Cypriots have taken the issue of solving the Cyprus problem in their own hands through cultural healing.

Sasha Shumara
6 March 2017, 11:57am
Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world.
Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world.
Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world, tells the story and underlying frustrations from the 40-year division and hard-hitting economic crisis. 

The walls are sprayed on every corner with poignant political graffiti reading "One Cyprus", a stencil of a young boy waiting to no end, and a mural of a sparrow diving for an olive branch. 

Political graffiti reads
Political graffiti reads "The War is Over" and "One Cyprus"
A cafe named 'Berlin No 2' neighbours the sandbag and barbed wire wall and locals cheerfully sip on their coffees.

In 1974, Turkey invaded and illegally occupied Cyprus, taking 36.2% of the Northern part of the island. The UN has since stepped in and formed this buffer zone known as the Green Line. There's no escaping the history with bullet holes cascading through the abandoned buildings sitting in this no man's land, the defeating wall splitting the old city into two semicircles and UN soldiers on guard. 

Looking out towards the occupied side, a provoking reversed Turkish flag is painted on the mountains for all of Cyprus to see, bearing a message: "How happy is the one who says I am a Turk".  

Underneath the reversed Turkish flag a message reads:
Underneath the reversed Turkish flag a message reads: "How happy is the one who says I am a Turk"
No substantial progress to solve the Cyprus problem has been made over the last 40 years. A lot of high expectations, too many broken promises and “it's all just talk” seems to be the sentiment on the street. 

On a recent press trip organised by Cyprus’s Press and Information Office, foreign affairs minister Ioannis Kasoulides argued that the Cypriot problem was “as huge as the Brexit issue”. 

Government spokesperson Nikos Christodoulides said it was only in the past 22 months that real progress had been registered when the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties came to the table for negotiations. 

Christodoulides believes that a referendum is close and Greek Cypriots are hopeful for a solution for the first time. 

Within the limits of the UN buffer zone
Within the limits of the UN buffer zone
This is very promising as the financial crisis left the Cypriot people with great distrust: "People don't believe in politicians [...] the people woke up and the banks were closed. They lost their money. And they blame the politicians.”

Meanwhile, Nicosia is culturally thriving and it is addictive. The local people are breathing new life into Nicosia, taking up the issue of solving the Cyprus Problem in their own hands through cultural healing to mend the divide. There is always something going on from, the local film festival to contemporary dance performances, musicians, street art, poetry nights and microbreweries.

The Home for Cooperation, which officially opened in 2011, lies in this UN buffer zone creating a safe space where a culture of peace is nurtured and important voices are heard. The Home for Cooperation hosts weekly Thursday Live Sessions bringing musicians and audiences together from across the divide. Their annual Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival works to influence the construction of new societal identities between the communities of Cyprus. 

The dream of living in a united Cyprus is a common sentiment for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots
The dream of living in a united Cyprus is a common sentiment for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots
Cyprus is attracting artists and entrepreneurs alike who are establishing themselves not only in Nicosia but also throughout Cyprus. This month, Maltese photographer David Pisani is exhibiting A Tale of Two Cities in Pafos, which is the 2017 European Capital of Culture. 

Pisani’s work represents the similar and powerful narratives of social displacement between the two Mediterranean Island states.